Nearly 70 percent of the population of Myanmar relies on agriculture for their livelihood. As many as half of them (an estimated 4 million families) are completely landless, and millions more farm with weak legal rights to the land on which they depend. Their tenure insecurity perpetuates the cycle of poverty, seeds conflict, and leaves families vulnerable to land takings by powerful interests.
Recognizing the challenge this tenure insecurity poses to economic development and stability, the civilian government has prioritized land reform as central to its efforts boosting agricultural development of this fragile transitional state.
Landesa supports these reforms with technical assistance and shares its international expertise as an advisor to government officials developing pro-poor and gender-responsive national land policies.
Landesa has trained hundreds of national and regional members of parliament on pro-poor land law frameworks, and hundreds more members of the executive branch on implementation of these frameworks. Along with other development partners, Landesa’s advice led to the adoption of the National Land Use Policy (2016) and the historic revised Community Forestry Instruction (2016), which together have set into motion protections for millions of lowland and upland farming families in Myanmar. Together, these policies allow community stewardship of millions of acres of forestland, in turn providing an opportunity to protect critical wildlife habitat and to reduce climate change.
Myanmar’s efforts to eliminate landlessness began in earnest in 2016. In the first two years of these reforms, tens of thousands of landless families have become new smallholders. More than 1 million acres of additional farmland and community forestland has been secured by the government for return, allocation, formalization of the rights of current farmers community forest dwellers. The government is working to secure an additional 2-3 million acres of unused farmland for return, formalization, and allocation to the landless.
STATEMENT ON SITUATION IN RAKHINE STATE
Landesa shares the deep concerns raised around the world about the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State, in which hundreds of thousands of ethnic minority Rohingya have been displaced both internally and across the border into Bangladesh. While Landesa conducts no direct programmatic work in Rakhine State, the organization monitors closely the reports concerning displaced persons and refugees, including the reports by the UN Special Rapporteur and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as those by international NGOs and by the Government of Myanmar.
We strongly believe that upholding human rights, including respect for the rights of ethnic minorities, is a vital part of the democratic transition underway in Myanmar, and is essential to a lasting settlement under the national peace process. An immediate cessation of armed conflict and violence in Rakhine State, protections for all people of Rakhine State and Myanmar, including the return and resettlement of Rohingya refugees and communities displaced during the crisis, and addressing the root causes of underdevelopment and violence in Rakhine, are essential steps to ensure the safeguarding of human rights and a lasting peace in Myanmar. Landesa is committed to support these processes of peacebuilding and respect for rule of law and the human rights of all people in Myanmar.